Packing for Two Weeks in Europe in Carry-On Luggage

I Listen to this. The government says that airlines collected $3.4 BILLION in baggage fees in 2010! $3.4 Billion! How many of you contributed to that ridiculous number? Jay and I definitely have – we even did on our short trip to Miami. Don’t judge us.

It’s just so difficult to pack smart especially with the 3.0 oz. liquid rule. How will I bring my sunscreen? I slather on tons of it because covering health news has made me paranoid about looking old and getting cancer.

Anyway — back to the baggage fees… It IS possible to travel for two-weeks – in Europe with only carry-on luggage. I know it’s possible because my good friend and fellow Hofstra University alum – has done it! It’s true! And she’s sharing all her secrets so we can all save money and time. Take notes…

Two Weeks in Europe With Carry-On Luggage

by Nicole Feldman

Not having to check a bag on all of the planes, trains, boats and trams we took during our two-week honeymoon in Greece saved us a total of eight hours! This took some serious planning, but we both left for the airport holding one shoulder bag and a 22″ wheelie suitcase- and that’s it.


  1. Roll everything!
  2. Wear your heaviest items on the plane.
  3. Get a light, 22″ that rolls in any direction. This is the big investment that will save so much time, money and angst along the way. It’s also the largest size that can be stored overhead, according to regulations.
  4. Use a very cute, light and spacious purse as your shoulder bag, since this will double as a travel tote during your sightseeing days.
  5. “Space Bags” are a must – these clear, flat packing bags that are available at Bed, Bath & Beyond. After packing each bag, you’ll need to lay them flat on the ground, roll from one end to the other and watch as all of the air is compressed out of each bag.
  6. Two extra, empty space bags are flat enough to slip in the front pocket of the suitcase and are good to have on hand for dirty clothes on the way home.


(in Space Bags)

  • 2 Glamorous sundresses
  • 10 Casual sundresses that can go from day to night
  • 1 Pair of your sexiest jeans (these can double as a night outfit with heels and a hot shirt)
  • 1 Glamorous, wrinkle-proof top
  • 2 Bathing Suits that can be mixed and matched with each other
  • 1 Basic tank top
  • 1 Basic fitted tee
  • 4 Pairs of socks
  • 16 Pairs of underwear
  • 4 Regular bras
  • 2 Strapless bras
  • 6 Satin nighties
  • 2 Pashminas (white, beige)
  • 1 Pair of killer heels
  • 1 Pair of flat-supportive sandals
  • 2 Pairs of comfortable flip flops (black, white or metallic)


A Ziploc bag, filled with the basic essentials (you’ll run out and will need to pick-up more while you are away):

  • Mini Shampoo
  • Mini Conditioner
  • Mini Toothpaste
  • Mini Suntan Lotion
  • Mini Shower Gel
  • Mini Body Lotion
  • Mini Hair Potion of your choice

A small travel case, filled with:

  • Make-up
  • Chapstick
  • Tweezers
  • Hair Ties
  • A small comb or brush
  • Mini Deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Mini Floss
  • Razor
  • Vitamins
  • A small, mesh jewelry bag filled with your most versatile jewelry


  • Comfortable Jeans (These can double as a “way-home” pair of jeans)
  • Basic Tank Top
  • Neutral Cardigan (Can also be used as a jacket during the chilly European evenings)
  • Light, rain-friendly jacket
  • Sneakers


(This will go under your seat so that it’s accessible during the long flight)

  • A large, neutral wristlet that can be used throughout the trip as a small purse and can fit into your larger shoulder bag while still holding:
  • Money
  • Credit Cards
  • Passport
  • Lip Gloss
  • A 2nd Chapstick
  • Bandaids
  • Charmin Wipes (you never know – it is Europe!)
  • A miniature mirror
  • Phone
  • A small tube of Advil or Tylenol
  • A miniature roll of Tums or Rolaids
  • Gum
  • Tide Stick
  • House key (off of the keychain – for the way home)
  • A book / magazine / Kindle / iPad
  • Chargers (phone / Kindle / iPad)
  • Glasses
  • Headphones
  • Eye Mask
  • Ear Plugs
  • The third (black) Pashmina (which can double as a plane blanket)
  • A super-compact umbrella
  • A Ziploc bag that holds:
  • Eye Drops
  • Mini Contact Solution
  • Contact Case
  • Face Moisturizer
  • Hand Lotion
  • Purell
  • Disinfectant Wipes (because if you’re anything like me, those trays on the seat-backs gross you out)
  • An extra pair of Contact Lenses
  • Mini Evian Mister (the best way to fight facial dryness on a long flight)
  • Mini Perfume Vial

As an Event Planner Extraordinaire, Nicole Feldman has learned that last-minute travel is par for the course in her industry. She has mastered the art of throwing together a suitcase filled with essentials in under an hour – all she needs is a great list (and a serious shoe collection)!

To get a copy of my list making starter kit, which includes a vacation packing lists, as well as my latest productivity tips – sign up to my newsletter here.

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42 replies
  1. Linda
    Linda says:

    I would like specific recommendations for the bags Nicole likes at those 2 websites. They have lots of choices there. Thanks!!

  2. Christine
    Christine says:

    I realize this is an older blog but hoping you can help. I am going on my first international trip, from us to Paris then air France to Italy ..I would love some recommendations for carry on luggage as to what holds the most volume . The specs rarely give cubic centimeters. So hard to know..thank you so much for your time

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Hi Christine — sounds like an exciting trip! I’m going to get Nicole who guest wrote this post to weigh in for you. She might have a good recommendation for you! Start making a list of all the activities you’ll be doing so you can work from that list to figure out what to bring with you. That’s an easy way to combat overpacking! Have a wonderful trip — warmly, Paula

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  4. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Hi Walla – thanks for your post! We’re still working on catering this list for other age groups. In the meantime, if you can get away without packing the heels, all the better! They tend to take up more space than a cute pair of flats (our favorite can be found on As for the satin nightgowns, I still vote for you to pack them (even if you choose the longer versions). It’s still a vacation, after all! 🙂

  5. Walla
    Walla says:

    Awesome! Say, could you publish a great list like this for senior citizens? We are not freaks, but we sure won’t be wearing killer heels or needing 6 satin nightgowns! 🙂 Your help would GREATLY be appreciated!

  6. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Hi Jenny!
    The Space Bags that I use actually don’t require a vacuum to close them up; they’re great! You’ll need to fill them, kneel on one end of the bag and then roll the air out of each to get them as flat as possible. I suggest keeping one dedicated for dirty clothes and another for clean. You can find them at any Bed, Bath and Beyond. Enjoy your trip!

  7. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    Thanks for the tips and lists…I am heading to Italy for 6 weeks in a weeks time and I will be in and out of hotels and a few holiday houses with other family friends that we will meet there ….I think the space bags will cause me angst as dont you have to deflate them every time you want something out of them?

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Hi Jenny —

      Glad you found the post helpful! Nicole is great at this stuff! I’m sure she’ll have more ideas for you. I haven’t used the space bags but I think it’s a great idea. Have a great time in Italy — we were just there (with Nicole & her hubby actually) in March and had a fabulous time! Thanks for reading!

  8. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Going to go for 6 weeks in Europe with only carry on. I normally pack seriously heavily, but my friend has just come back from just under three months with only carry on. Definitely going to need her to help me weed out my stuff.

    Think I’ll try the space bags – I’m going to be getting filthy at festivals etc and want as many clean clothes as possible! Unfortunately probably going to have to wear my gumboots on the plane.. look just a little strange.

    Does make up have to be included in the zip lock bags with all the liquids etc? It seems like you don’t have to here, but I definitely remember being told by someone any gels/liquids/powders (so foundation, mascara etc) would have to fit in there too.

    • List Producer
      List Producer says:

      Hi Hannah – thanks for writing! It seems like you have quite a trip ahead of you! I think the space bags will save you a lot of room and headaches. I haven’t tried them myself but Nicole, my friend and the author of this post,swears by them.
      As far as the makeup goes – if it is liquid it has to go in the ziptop bag. But still has to be under 3 ounces.
      It will be challenging to pack for this trip for sure but just map out what you’ll be doing and what you’ll need each day. And make a list of course! Hope you have a great trip.

    • Nicole
      Nicole says:

      Hi Hannah,
      What an exciting trip! In addition to extra, empty Space Bags to compress dirty clothes, I would pack a handful of ziplocs in various sizes (in case of ripping) and plastic grocery bags to pack dirty shoes later in your trip.
      Also, tubes of lip gloss and foundation are really the only two pieces of your makeup bag that need to go into the ziploc of liquids – mascara and powdered makeup are totally fine. To avoid taking up too much space in the bag, Garnier makes a roller ball foundation that is light and super-portable. Another favorite are the mini tinted lip balms from SUGAR – they look and feel like lip gloss but come in stick form and aren’t categorized as liquids at all. Plus, they are available in great colors and will fit into your pocket at the festivals! Enjoy your trip!

      • L
        L says:

        A great list to adapt to fit the individual. According to the airline we are flying with though a lot of items in the handbag would have to go in the ziploc bag of liquids – hand lotion, contact lens solution, moisturiser, perfume etc. Lipsticks and lip balms are also included on the ziploc bag list – leaving quite a lot to cram into that little clear bag.
        Also, tweezers can be confiscated at security.
        Still determined to only pack hand luggage for our upcoming trip though. The second half of our trip will be by motorbike so packing light is essential for us!

  9. Deyan
    Deyan says:

    Since finding your great advise, I have now invested in a set of space bags… I had to go CA for a conference and used two space bags in my 27″ luggage and let me tell you – I overpacked (of course) but with those space bags there was so much room leftover I was able to bring back lots of presents for my kids and husband! Hmm, maybe that was why Delta charged me $90 overweight fee?? lol
    I do have a different question for you –
    I have heard there are pickpockets all over Europe and as I read more and more nail-biting information, I think I should invest in one of those under-the-clothing type wallets that will fit my passport book, ID and money… Can you recommend a decent one for myself and possibly for my 17 year old son (if I can get him to wear it – that is another subject 😉 )
    I did buy a cross-bag for my camera, etc. while I walk around with the tour group, but I think an under-the-clothing wallet is in order too.

    • List Producer
      List Producer says:

      Hi Deyan —

      Thanks so much for writing! I just got back from a 2 week vacation in Italy and Paris with Nicole actually. We were discussing your question and both agreed that you should try not to carry your Passport with you if you can help it. Keep it locked up in the hotel safe and make sure you don’t carry all your cash with you either.

      That being said — a cross body bag works well for your camera and other items you may need but it’s not the safest way to travel. I’m a big fan of Rick Steve’s tour books and he always suggests a money belt: He even sells one on his site. It’s not the most fashionable thing but at least it’s functional and safe.

      I’m so glad that the space bags worked out for you! Nicole swears by them. I still have to try them out myself.

      Have a great trip and please let us know how you do with the money belt situation.


  10. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Hi Kimberly! I haven’t flown on RyanAir, but I’ve taken EasyJet many times and know that they share a lot of the same policies. 10kg is actually about 22 pounds, while 55cm is technically 21+ inches. Therefore, you can get a significantly sized bag on board with you, but they are definitely very strict about only having ONE item per person. When I went from Paris to Italy for 5 days, I packed everything (roll, roll, roll!) into a large backpack and was OK with having one item. Other times I have checked a small bag in advance online (the lightest option they offer) and brought my shoulder bag on board for inter-country, puddle-jumper style flights. If you wait until you get to the airport to check your small carry-on bag with those smaller airlines, they charge up to 6 times their baggage fees!!! Good luck and have a wonderful time on your trip!

  11. Kimberly R
    Kimberly R says:

    This is fantastic! I’m leaving for my first international trip to Europe and this will really help! I was wondering though, if your friend has flown with RyanAir? Their baggage policies are a bit confusing and I can’t figure out if I am allowed a carry-on AND a personal item, of if I am allowed only one or the other. If I could get an answer before next Wednesday I would really truly appreciate it!

    • List Producer
      List Producer says:

      Hi Kimberly — so glad you found my blog! Nicole is such a whiz at this stuff. I’m actually traveling with her in two weeks to Europe and this list has been so helpful! You are going to love Europe. I haven’t traveled on RyanAir but will ask Nicole if she has.

      But from their website it looks like you are only allowed one personal item:

      “Strictly one item of cabin baggage per passenger (excluding infants) weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm is permitted. (handbag, briefcase, laptop, shop purchases, camera etc.) must be carried in your 1 permitted piece of cabin baggage.”

      It will be a challenge for sure! Good luck!

  12. Deyan
    Deyan says:

    You have a plethera of great advise! I am one of those ladies who will pack a 26″ suitcase to go on a long weekend with a lot of “just-in-case” type of outfits.
    I will be traveling (for the very first time) with my 17 year old son on a 15 day educational tour of England, France, Italy and Switzerland. I’ve read a few different internet sites that says what size of luggage to take, but never says what will fit into them sensibly.
    I know now that I need to invest in a “space bag”.
    One question I do have is this: Being that this will be an educational tour, I assume we will be doing a lot of walking. Can you suggest a good pair of walking shoes that are comfortable, nice looking, decent on a budget, and can be worn with long sundresses?
    Again, thank you for your great advise, I appreciate it very much!

    • Nicole
      Nicole says:

      Hi Deyan – That sounds like an amazing trip! For shoes that are comfortable, light to pack and durable, be sure to check out Zappos! They actually have a full category of “Comfort” based shoes for women in every style. The shipping policy is great…they are super quick to deliver everything and have free return shipping available, so you can try out a bunch of pairs before choosing a winner. If you’re looking to really invest in someting you’ll wear for a long time, Tieks by Gavrieli are adorable, comfort-driven, FOLDABLE flats that you can literally toss into your carry-on! Have a wonderful time!

      • List Producer
        List Producer says:

        Thanks Nicole for responding! Great ideas as usual! Zappos is amazing because you can just pick a bunch of stuff and try them on in the comfort of your own home and then send them back! Easy!
        Deyan — have a fabulous time on your trip!

    • Nicole
      Nicole says:

      Hi Amy -thanks for reading my post! I’m quite opposed to flip flops (not supportive enough unless I’m at the beach) and sneakers (clunky and def not cute enough with a sundress) when I travel to Europe. A flat, super supportive, rubber soled sandal that has a strappy top to cover the top of your foot and a loop around the ankle is my go-to for warm weather travel. Believe it or not, Aerosoles is carrying cute but functional looks right now (such as the “CHLOTESLINE” style) that work well in a neutral color for jeans, dresses and capris. Hope this helps!

      • List Producer
        List Producer says:

        Nicole – thanks for responding! Aerosoles is one of my favorite brands and believe it or not sometimes Naturalizer can have some really great looks too. Yes, sometimes they are a bit older looking but they’ve really been amping up their “fashion” these days.

        Another good option is — they have some really cute sandals that are supportive. They need to work on some of their closed-toe shoes to make them look cuter and not so orthopedic. But for sandals — they are amazing. I have a pair myself!

        Amy – have a fabulous trip and thanks for reading!

  13. Tara
    Tara says:

    Awesome packing list!! We are going on a 3 wk trip that starts in London,a week in Italy, then a cruise that encompasses Egypt, Turkey, Greece,. I need city clothes for London, beach clothes in Italy, cruise clothes, and hiking stuff in Egypt. I am DETERMINED to pack only a carry on but not sure how!! One question I had – the light rain jacket you wear on the plane – can you tell me specifically what you use? I feel I may need one but have yet to find anything even slightly cute/ semi stylish.

    • List Producer
      List Producer says:

      Tara – so glad you found this post helpful!

      I asked Nicole (who wrote the post) the questions you asked. Here’s what she said:

      The thin, fitted north face jacket is really cute.  If not, Patagonia has women’s sizes in black that are adorbes – they go with everything and have a good hood so he can skip the umbrella. Old Navy typically has rain gear as well!

      She needs tiny dresses for the hot places with flat, comfy, supportive sandals, one pair of jeans and her rain jacket on the plane for London and cropped capri leggings (VS has a great option that fold up to nothing) with a super loose tunic tank (H&M) for hiking in Egypt. I got multiple outfits like that and have worn them to death!

      Don’t forget the pashmina in her purse to cover her shoulders in all of the churches in Egypt and Turkey!

    • lola machamos
      lola machamos says:

      Bench has some really cute ones. You can literally go in a pool and your shirt underneath is still dry.

  14. jeremiah johnson
    jeremiah johnson says:

    Unfortunately our new airline rules and policies have made it necessary to be innovative, as you obviously are. You present some great ideas and ways of packing that I would have never thought of. Even with my knowledge of
    carry-on luggage it baffles me that you were able to pack all of your list in one shoulder bag and one carry-on. Great information that will save travelers time and money. Thank you.


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